Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, PSS, Colombo, 4th day August 11, 2008

India's cracks were everywhere

The defeat ultimately came down to a batting line-up that couldn't pull its weight

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were among the few bright spots for India in the series © AFP

India are regularly talked up as the team most likely to knock Australia off their perch but, on a day South Africa formally completed their seventh Test series win in eight, India's claim became that much more tenuous as they hurtled to their fifth defeat in their last 10 Tests against the strongest sides in the world [Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka]. The factors for losing this match, and the series, cover almost every aspect of India's cricket.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" said Benjamin Franklin a couple of centuries ago, sage advice that the Indian cricket board blithely ignores time after time. Prior to the Boxing Day Test last year, India had just one warm-up game and barely a week of acclimatisation. It was little surprise, then, when Australia romped home by nine wickets at the MCG.

On arriving in Sri Lanka last month, the Indians again played just one practice match, and left the SSC after an innings-and-239-run thrashing. Why do they never learn? Why is the itinerary always adjusted to shoehorn in meaningless one-day series? The lack of preparation becomes especially acute when the stalwarts of your batting order are no longer part of the one-day side. As long as the priority is quantity [and revenue], the team will continue to have all the substance of a plank of plywood.

The batsmen started in wretched fashion at the SSC, and with the exception of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, there were few silver linings as the series progressed. India's batsmen made one hundred [Sehwag's monumental 201 in Galle] and seven half-centuries [four from the openers] in the series, and didn't cross 330 even once. Sri Lanka had four centuries at the SSC alone, and they comfortably outbatted India in the series decider.

Australia conceded first-innings leads in every Test back in 2004, but still prevailed because their batsmen stockpiled seven centuries and four 50s. Without someone to dig deep and bat like Darren Lehmann and Damien Martyn did on that tour, India simply didn't have a chance. First-day scores of 249 don't win you Test matches on placid pitches, as Anil Kumble was to admit later.

The bowlers were just as culpable though. Barring Harbhajan Singh, who took 16 wickets, no Indian bowler averaged less than 30. Harbhajan and Kumble took 24 wickets between them, two less than the remarkable Ajantha Mendis, whose off breaks, peculiar googlies and carrom balls dismissed VVS Laxman on five occasions, and Rahul Dravid four times. After his exertions against Pakistan and Australia, Kumble appears to be running on empty, and the series against Australia could well be a watershed as far as Indian spin is concerned.

The pace bowlers had their moments, but couldn't summon up the consistency or the venom to break open the series. While it's true that slow bowlers tend to be the game-breakers in Sri Lanka, two of the sides to win here this millennium have shown the value of pace and seam movement. When England triumphed in 2000-01, Darren Gough took 14 wickets at 19.57 and Andy Caddick nine at 25. Three seasons later, Australia were indebted to Shane Warne's 26 wickets, but just as crucial was the contribution from Michael Kasprowicz [12 wickets at 25.16] and Jason Gillespie [10 at 31.6].

Enough has been said about the fielding shambles. Having given his all during one-day tournaments of paramount importance in Bangladesh and Pakistan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to give this trivial Test series a miss. His replacements were shocking, both with gloves and bat. Prasanna Jayawardene, the most under-rated wicketkeeper in the world, was immaculate with the gloves and also contributed 107 runs with the bat, including a priceless 49 at the P Sara. Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel aggregated 50 over six innings, and seemed to fluff more chances than they took.

Muttiah Muralitharan finished with 21 wickets at 22.23, par for the course in a home series, and India tackled him as well as could have been expected. What will really rankle, though, was the abject surrender - Sehwag and Gambhir apart - against Mendis, the only other bowler of substance in a wafer-thin attack. Chaminda Vaas wasn't the force of old, while Dammika Prasad will bowl a lot better and go wicketless.

Mendis and Murali wheeled away for an astonishing 324 overs and, aside from the openers, no one managed to collar them even once. When it mattered, they would either come up with an unplayable delivery or one of the fielders would pull off a stunning catch. The half-chances that invariably slipped through Indian fingers inevitably stuck in Sri Lankan palms.

Ultimately though, it came down to a batting line-up that couldn't pull its weight. Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly finished with fewer runs than Prasanna, and when two of your biggest wheels fall off in such fashion, even the mightiest juggernaut will only end up in a wayside ditch. Beaten, broken, and ambushed by a man who likes to flick the ball with his middle finger.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gavin on August 18, 2008, 12:50 GMT

    Another match,another pathetic performance by the indian batsmen.How could any1 have expected anything else.When india could not defend against mendis and co in the test series how can you expect them to attack.From the looks of things the only thing standing between India and a 5-0 drubbing is a certain Sehwag and Gambhir getting their act together.Unfortunately for India Sehwag might not even play the next odi.Its quite evident that India are only playing with 2 batsmen.With Sehwag out ,only Gambhir and upto a certain extent Dhoni look capable of countering the sri lankan spinners.The rest of the batting lineup is there only to make up the numbers.Dhoni should really consider coming in at no 3.He was the only one who played mendis with some degree of certainty in the asia cup final.Im really wondering why the indians are so reluctant to use the sweep shot.Get your front foot outside the line of the offstump and sweep as hard as possible especially the left handers would be my advice.

  • Muhammad on August 17, 2008, 7:16 GMT

    The main reasons for the loss: "Decline of stalwarts (Sachin, Dravid & Ganguly). India should look beyond and start giving Yuvi, Rohit & Kaif more chances.

  • Vishnupriya on August 15, 2008, 7:28 GMT

    As an Indian, I do feel incredibly disappointed at the loss. India is a great team with incredible potential, unimaginable amounts of talent, and we've managed to produce some of the greatest ever. So what has happened to us? We're put against a team of remarkable players... Murali and Mendis shining, and suddenly the greats of the world are crumbling? Tendulkar should pick up his game, he HAS potential, but he's just not playing! Same goes for Dravid and Laxman. The Wall and VVS did great things against Australia in Kolkata, winning after following on, why can't they pull it off again! People hear India and they think "cricket!", now if only our team can live up to that honour.

  • Rajinda on August 15, 2008, 5:52 GMT

    Thank heavens you cleared the air for the rest of us, that you are not an Indian. "PHEW" what a relief, I didn't know your real name was Darryl Hair! Now we don't need to waste our time anymore about your posts, as nothing better could have been expected from someone who crawled out of a BUSH! Keep your dictionary to your self, and get an Atlas & learn geography, as my name should tell you where I live (not in SL). Please put down your FOSTERS & read a book or two on compassion. With all due respect to the rest of our Aussie friends, all of whom are good folks, a few bad apples with bad_vision are left from the Prison Colony that was once Australia. I for one sympathize for your ignorance in both cricket & humanity.

  • Steyn on August 14, 2008, 14:54 GMT

    Cannuck there seemed to be no adequate facility on your troubled island to teach you proper english as if you use a dictionary(that may or may not be available on your island as if not i'll send it to you for free) you will understand the meaning of my name as vision beyond view is seeing what troubled and defective people can't see. Also this jawana guy seemed to be funny. Dude what a pathetic name you have got and do you even know "C" about cricket. These remarks are not inhuman but for defective and unnatural humans who just use there disabilities in there cracked backyard to win a game or two so rather there writing crap here just move and leave the comments to be written by people who not only know but win cricket like us "The Australians".

  • Shamshir on August 14, 2008, 13:01 GMT

    Just some words for VISION_BEYOND_VIEW, India lost because their main bats could not face the young SL bowler MENDIS along with MURALLI. It is a fact all of you should accept. You cannot diminish SL success by lame excuses. Calling SL playrs and even the whole island DISABLE, is simply a thing even worse than the defeat against SL. But you are not so much guilty because what should an indian do when his great heroes repeatedly fail against SL spinners? In ground they are crushed every day by SL and can only do what you are doing.....just showing their hatred against others. But, you should know that it will even stimulate SL to prove themselves in field. Let me say, your statement is shame for all the indians even for all the human. Let us wait some indian to excuse the SL for such inhuman remarks.

  • Gavin on August 14, 2008, 5:49 GMT

    Cannuck....I share your sentiment. Vision_beyond I really hope you arent an Indian.Im an Indian myself and im upset with India's performance.But to ridicule a great player like murali is totally over the line and uncalled for.Someone forgot to tell you, it takes some serious talent,and years of hardwork and practice to pick 700 odd wickets in test cricket.Murali not only has been a great performer but he is a genuinely good human being,very humble and modest.JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE DIFFERENT DOESNT MAKE YOU HANDICAPPED!! Let me also tell you that Murali has fans all over the world including India.Murali has been a great ambassador for Sri Lankan cricket and cricket in general.As for Mendis he is a new kid on the block and hes got talent. Let us just appreciate the talents and achievements of these players and acknowledge the fact that they played better cricket than india,hence india lost.

  • sreekanth on August 14, 2008, 5:24 GMT

    it's fair enough to expect bitter response from indian fans on the lost series and on the failure of the so called "fab 4" and a great bowler like anil.but instead of seeing the glass as half empty,its every good to see it as half full.what i mean to say is that:it was as if only half of the indian team was fighting hard against the whole srilankan team and the rest were mere spectators.i would say that srilanka was very fortunate in this case and there is no need for the srilankan's to boast about.I sincerely pray to god to give some wisdom to selectors so as to tell ganguly that his time is up and its time to sit at home and watch others play.All I can say about mendis is: no need to lift him so high as we saw how he was hit for runs by sehwag and gambhir.Some people just cant see the fact that these two spinners(M&M) bowled more that 80% of the deliveries in the whole series so its more obvious that they will get more that 80% percent of the wickets(which is not possible in ODIs)

  • Rajinda on August 13, 2008, 22:45 GMT

    This comment is for no one else, but to vision_beyond. I have great respect for Indian fans & feel their pain in losing the series. We have been there our selves, & we support our neighbours. So I hope this (im)poster is NOT an Indian fan, because he has simply crossed a line. I wonder which part of the world he lives in, but calling SL players "disabled" is a pathetic, sad, & totally uncivilized comment anywhere. It's one thing to disagree with Murali's achievements, but to label him as disable is simply, inhuman. If you are an Indian you should be more ashamed as Murali is married to an Indian girl. FYI, Malinga & Mendis have no such physical issues, nor did the others who did well against India. True Indian Cricket fans on this page agrees it's a combination of India under performing & a better team winning. As your name suggests your vision doesn't seem to go beyond hatred. Please crawl back under the rock you came out of, & leave the comments to intelligent people who know cricket

  • Nishant on August 13, 2008, 14:52 GMT

    I guess Ganguly should be dropped. But not Sachin. We won the finals of the ODI series in Australia because of his innings. And even in the test series in Australia he scored a couple of centuries. But its high time that Ganguly and Kumble are dropped and maybe even Dravid. But Sachin and Laxman should still stay in the side.

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